Heart of Kent Hospice

    The Rev Mike Hayes

The Rev Mike Hayes has been working with patients of the Heart of Kent Hospice for six years.While working at the hospice Mike has noticed the different needs of people. He said, “In palliative care work there is a concern for meaning and looking back over life. Sometimes, when people are quite isolated and a bit confused, there is also a need for connection. When someone is with them they can remember who they are. There can also be a need for reconciliation. In a religious sense, that might be confession.  In a general sense, when something has gone wrong people may be seeking reconcilation or a way of coming to terms with it.”

Mike wears his clerical collar and said that some people who are angry with God express this by being angry with Mike. He said, “I do not think we are always very good at expressing anger in Christian culture, but I think to express anger appropriately is really good and I always try to encourage people to let some of it out rather than turn it in on themselves.”

To ease anxiety, Mike offers meditation and contemplative prayer. He said, “People are sometimes very anxious about the manner of their dying or what it may be like when they are dead, depending on their view of what happens at death. We don’t talk about death very much as a society, so people often feel glad that it is safe to do so with a chaplain. Then they can speculate about what may happen after death.”

There is a chapel and some quiet rooms available to the hospice and every week patients can celebrate the Eucharist. There is an ecumenical service on Sunday afternoons led by a number of local churches on a rota basis. Mike added, “We do have marriages here and have had two this year. We get a fantastic service from the registry office who come in quickly to conduct a legal marriage and, if people ask me to, I will conduct a blessing afterwards.”

Mike tries to visit all the patients and has a team of volunteer chaplains who can be available daily on the ward and in the day centre. Mike said, “We visit each room and introduce ourselves to new patients. Usually it is very obvious at the time if someone doesn’t want visitors but very often they do want to speak to chaplains. For example once I walked into one room and the guy said, ‘I am atheist’. So I asked him ‘does that mean you do want to speak to me or you don’t want to speak to me?’ And he said, ‘sit down’. I was with him for quite a long time and it was a conversation that affirmed his values and we were able to find some common ground.”

A number of support services are available at the hospice for both patients and families including individual, group and couple counselling, a bereavement group, pre- and post-bereavement work with children and alternative therapies like aromatherapy or reflexology. Mike and his team also offer remembrance services three times a year for relatives whose loved ones have either died at the hospice or have been supported by the Community Team. 

Mike said, “I think one of the things I most enjoy is listening to stories about people’s lives. I hear about people working on farms, growing crops and life for people who have been in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Although I do encounter a great deal of pain, struggle, anger and exhaustion, I also hear about all of these wonderful things that people have done, their achievements, their relationships and their families over the years. It is lovely to hear and is a real privilege.”

The Heart of Kent Hospice is a registered charity caring for up to 350 patients with advanced cancer and other life threatening illnesses. It covers Maidstone and parts of Tonbridge and Malling and offers 12 beds in the in patient unit, day therapy, family services and specialist community team. All Hospice services are offered free of charge. However, it costs £3.6m a year for the Hospice to continue to provide its services and, with only 29% of that coming from statutory sources, it relies on the generosity of the local community in raising over £2.5m. If you would could help in raising funds or would like to volunteer for the hospice please contact 01622 790195 or visit http://www.hokh.org for more information.  

Copyright 2015 © The Diocese of Rochester. Registered Office: St Nicholas’ Church, Boley Hill, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1SL. Registered Charity No. 249339 The Rochester Diocesan Society and Board of Finance is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No. 140656